Pierre Thomas thought he was going to be released by the New Orleans Saints this year.

Not just one of those, "You never know what might happen in this business" deals, either.

Thomas saw what happened to so many of his longtime veteran teammates as the Saints were shedding salary-cap costs. He saw the reports that he and fellow running back Darren Sproles were being shopped around in trade talks. And he saw the writing on the wall -- or so he thought.

"Yeah, I actually did think that. But, I mean, I hoped for the best," Thomas said. "I was crossing my fingers hoping I wasn't gonna get traded. But I didn't know at that point, and I just left it in God's hands. And, well, you see where I'm at now."

The Saints wound up trading away Sproles instead, and they worked out a new three-year contract with Thomas. The new deal included a slight pay cut for the 2013 season (from $2.9 million to $2.4 million), but it was a strong commitment from the Saints to their longtime running back, nonetheless.

One of the most underappreciated players in the NFL since he first cracked the league as an undrafted free agent in 2007, Thomas said he certainly felt appreciated by the Saints.